Monday, June 22, 2009

Food Facts: Asparagus

Vegetables should be the main part of your diet due to their health-promoting value–nutrients that vegetables contain!  

Just like fruit, vegetables should be included every day because they not only provide energy and fiber, but they contain many water-soluble vitamins like: vitamin C and the B vitamins. Fruits (and vegetables) provide more of these critical nutrients than any other type of food. Unlike fat-soluble vitamins (such as vitamins A, D and E), which are bodies can store for future use, water-soluble vitamins are needed every day for our bodies to function optimally! 

Vegetables are the most nutrient-rich foods, (provide the most vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients for the least amount of calories), so they are key if you want to lose weight and keep it off!  

Vegetables come in many sizes, shapes and from different parts of the plant.
  • leaves:  spinach and lettuce
  • roots: carrots and beets 
  • stalks:  celery and fennel 
  • tubers:  potatoes and sweet potatoes 
  • inflorescents: flowering vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower 
  • bulbs:  garlic and onions 

That being said, lets talk about asparagus
Asparagus is often referred to as the "aristocrat of vegetables" because at the time of ancient Rome, fleets of ships were sent to gather asparagus for the emperors. 

Asparagus is an excellent source of folic acid, a B vitamin essential for proper cellular division and DNA synthesis as well as an essential nutrient for healthy cardiovascular system. Asparagus also provides health-promoting carotenoid phytonutrients, such as betacarotene, lutein and zeaxanthin, which function as powerful antioxidants that protect cells against the oxidative damage causes by free radicals. 

Asparagus promotes digestive health, heart health, fetal health, bone health as well as energy production. It is interesting to not that asparagus acts as a natural diuretic due to its mineral profile:  low in sodium, high in potassium (the opposite of the American diet)  combined with the amino acid asparagine.  

To maintain optimal health, it is recommended that you eat 3-4 servings of fruit and 5 servings of vegetables per day!  But don't overcook your vegetables–al dente is best!  

When choosing fruits and vegetables, go for colors—red, orange, yellow, green, blue/purple, and even white. Each color is a pigment that signifies the presence of certain antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals.

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